My Introduction to Transcendental Meditation
Meditation (in its general form) is something I only recently cared to start learning about. I am almost embarrassed to say that the whole thing used to sound like a whole lot of hippie hogwash to me; something only fruitarian, barefoot individuals who don’t believe in shampoo and don’t have day jobs, were into. Boy, was I wrong. Especially considering what I know now: that numerous captains of industry and the cream of Hollywood’s crop (including Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Cameron Diaz and Kate Husdon) are all devoted fans. And, while one can never say never, I’m pretty sure these individuals all have regular hair-washing regimes in place.
Personally, my attitude changed when, what I believe to have been somewhat serendipitously, the idea of transcendental meditation came to me. It was much like the saying goes: “the teacher will appear when the student is ready”. It was a good friend of mine, who – during one of our lunches – started explaining it to me when I was yet again complaining about the stresses of running a start-up business. She mentioned that, since she had begun practising it a few years ago, it was as if “life still happened”, but she was in something like a protective bubble. I guess she described the practice as a type of “stress-filter” or “stress-response deactivator”. I was sold – at least insofar as giving it a try was concerned.
The purpose of this post is not to write a mini textbook on TM or try to push it onto anybody, in any way. Instead, I am humbly sharing what little experience I have with it, because I believe I have stumbled across something worthy of sharing. I believe in spreading good news and, most of all, I believe in doing whatever we can do to live our best (and most stress-free) lives.
TM is an ancient, evidence-based technique, the neurological benefits of which have been studied more than that of any other meditation technique. It was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who famously taught the technique to the Beatles. It has since been proven by a myriad of published studies to alleviate stress and anxiety, improve cardiac health, increase brain function, ease addiction and alleviate insomnia (amongst other things).
It is not a religion, philosophy or lifestyle. It is simply a very powerful relaxation method. It is also the easiest form of meditation out there, unlike all the others. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can (I can barely watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy without checking my three email accounts, Instagram and Whatsapps simultaneously. And that includes those Grey’s episodes where the uncomfortably attractive McDreamy/McSteamy duo of deliciousness were still around.) Unlike “mindfulness” practises, TM requires no active concentration, control or focus.
In essence, it requires the use of a simple sound or “mantra” (chosen for you, based on various personal factors) by a qualified TM instructor, for twenty minutes twice a day. Its neurological effects are cumulative, meaning they get better and more tangible with time.
How I Knew TM Worked For Me
When I went to see Liz (my instructor, details hereunder), I was skeptical. There is a small ritual at the beginning of the first lesson which made me feel a tad uncomfortable, but Liz assured me this was simply a tradition of “giving thanks” to the founders of TM. She assured me this was the only esoteric or non-scientific bit and that the rest of the course was, quite simply, rather uneventful. So, I decided to let it go and see what all the fuss was about.
After the four-day course, the diligent student in me started practising the technique as instructed (twice a day). Liz told me not to expect immediate results and said that the benefits of TM would slowly start creeping into my life, “through the back door, not the front”. She said even if I didn’t believe it was going to work, it would (as long as I was doing it right, of course).
For the first two weeks, I didn’t feel any major changes and started to wonder whether I was wasting my time. However, what followed – about three weeks into the practice – was rather remarkable and made me sit up and take notice.
My childhood best friend, Lara (who has known me for no fewer than 28 years and had traveled with me on innumerable occasions) was with me when it happened. We were on a small private aeroplane en route to our family’s game farm in the Kalahari desert. Lara and I were making coffee up front when the pilots warned us of upcoming turbulence and asked us to take our seats. As the turbulence started to do its thing, I looked at Lara (almost inquisitively) and asked her whether she was nervous. Knowing what a super anxious passenger I usually am, she turned to me (very surprised) and said: “No, you know me, turbulence does nothing to me. How about you?” I shrugged and said “nah, if you’re fine, I’m fine”. We finished making coffee and casually went to take our seats. Where I would normally be clutching my husband’s hand so tightly the blood supply to his fingers would be jeopardised, I sat there relaxed, just chilling, just drinking my coffee. The outside turbulence was still happening, but – like the friend who introduced me to TM had told me – there was a definite protective bubble around me. It was rather surreal, but extremely welcome.
The outside turbulence was still happening, but…there was a definitive protective bubble around me.
After that, the benefits started becoming more and more apparent. My husband remarked how much calmer I seemed, especially during those rather volatile (;) times of the month. I started feeling more motivation and excitement at the prospect of going to work in the mornings. I remember sitting in the Kalahari one evening, on that same trip, experiencing a sense of joy and contentment that seemed deeper and more unfettered than usual.
Since starting the practice, I haven’t looked back and it is something that has become just as important to me as exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep. I see it as a daily dose of detoxing my mind from all the excess stress that living a fully-charged, hyper-dynamic life can bring. I can say, without a doubt, that – on the days where I have skipped one or both of my TM sessions – I always feel it.
For more (and probably more exciting stories) about TM, click here: click on “Menu” then “TM Stories”. Scroll down for “experiences with TM”. Here’s a quick video by the gorgeous and talented Cameron Diaz, on her experience with the practice, which she calls “the easiest thing I’ve ever done”.
Find Out More
- Read the New York Times best-selling book by world-renowned psychiatrist, Dr Norman Rosenthal | Transcendence by Dr Norman Rosenthal
- Visit the international TM website & find a local instructor | www.tm.org
- If you live in Cape Town | I thoroughly recommend doing a course under the fabulous and experienced Liz Welsh, who heads up the Cape Town Transcendental Meditation Centre
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